A packed crowd at New York Public Theater's now infamous Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, which features the brutal depiction of the assassination of Donald Trump-as-Caesar, gave the theater group a standing ovation on Monday before the politicized production began.
Variety, which published a review of the play that shamelessly depicts Trump supporters as "fearsome," "mindless" and "frightening," describes the scene as the play opened Monday night "to a supportive crowd who gave the show a standing ovation after the production became the focus of right-leaning criticism and funding withdrawals."
Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public and also the director of the show, opened the evening with a speech that made clear the Public would stand behind the work, despite the withdrawal of funding support by Bank of America and Delta Airlines. He addressed a supportive, industry-heavy crowd that included Alec Baldwin; Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the director whose Broadway staging of “Jitney” had won a Tony Award the night before; actors Brian d’Arcy James (“13 Reasons Why,” “Spotlight”) and Bill Irwin (“Legion”); and “Hamilton” producer Jeffrey Seller.
Eustis went on to insist that despite choosing to transform Julius Caesar into Donald Trump and then graphically depict his murder, the theater, of course, did not in any way promote violence.
"Anybody who watches this play tonight — and I’m sorry there’s going to be a couple of spoiler alerts here — will know that neither Shakespeare nor the Public Theater could possibly advocate violence as a solution to political problems, and certainly not assassination," he said in a truly Shakespearean example of "[he] dost protest too much, methinks."
Variety notes that Eustis went on to give an interview afterward in which he tried to somehow redirect the deserved outrage over the theater's staging of the murder of Trump to the "right-wing hate machine." As supposed proof of the unfair criticism of the tasteless play, Eustis cited some similar production with an Obama-like Caesar that no one has ever heard of from 2012. (He did not mention the rodeo clown who was demonized by CNN et al for wearing an Obama mask.)
Variety follows up Eustis' defense of the "topical" play with a few other important voices who explained the importance of assassinating Trump in a theatrically important way, or something. One of those voices was the former head of the National Endowment of the Arts (which Trump is considering defunding), who really elevated the conversation by referencing Aristophanes. So there you go.
Speaking of funding, the play lost two high-profile sponsors, Delta and Bank of America, but the other funders — including Time-Warner, American Express, New York Magazine and The New York Times — are standing firm behind the profound expression of political satire/shameless pandering to Trump Derangement Syndrome. One can't help but wonder if the Public Theater were nightly assassinating Julius Obama, would all these important voices be defending that production? We all know the answer to that.
Below is Inside Edition's coverage of the play, which includes footage of the assassination scene: